White vinegar is a good cleaning solution for removing mold from walls. This mild acid works on hard, non-porous surfaces and sinks into porous materials to kill fungi under the surface. It is important to clean drywall and other building materials with a penetrating antifungal agent such as acetic acid. Find out more about the advantages of applying vinegar at full strength, diluted or combined with alkaline substances such as baking soda or Borax to treat moldy walls.
Vinegar Kills Most Types of Mold
White distilled vinegar in standard 5% or cleaning 6% concentrations kills approximately 80% of mold species. Depending on the finish of a wall, you may prefer to use a diluted mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water. It may be necessary to reapply full-strength vinegar or vinegar-based solutions to kill mold and prevent regrowth.
Once surfaces are dry, consider sealing walls with oil-based primer or pigmented shellac. Add a layer of paint that contains mildewcide to discourage future infestations. If mold is also growing behind walls or in insulation, it may be necessary to tear out and replace drywall before taking any mold-proofing measures.
If mold keeps growing after a vinegar treatment, you may be dealing with a species that falls into the approximately 18% of known mold species that are not affected by acetic acid. You may need to use a fungicide. Consider consulting with mold remediation professionals to ensure that mold does not remain a problem.
Infestations that produce mycotoxins pose unique dangers. These harmful substances are not destroyed by vinegar or any other cleaning solution. Activated carbon air filters and ozone treatments that require evacuation may be necessary to eliminate byproducts of toxic mold.
Vinegar Kills Mold Growing on Porous Surfaces
Porous building materials, such as drywall and insulation, absorb moisture. When high humidity levels or water from a leak persist, any organic materials, such as built-up dirt and dust or even cellulose used in building materials, can provide mold with the nourishment it needs to grow.
When you bleach porous materials, the chlorine stays on the surface. The water in bleach solutions sinks in and can contribute to regrowth. For this reason, acidic or alkaline cleaning agents that get absorbed are more effective.
Most mold cleaning experts recommend pouring full-strength vinegar into a spray bottle and applying directly to mold growing on walls. Acetic acid will kill mold on the surface and get absorbed into materials to eliminate the mycelium.
Allow vinegar to remain on a moldy wall for two hours before scrubbing the surface with a stiff-bristled brush. Wipe down the wall and wait for it to dry. It may be beneficial to speed up this process by running new fans unexposed to spores or a dehumidifier to draw out moisture. Check treated surfaces over the following days for any traces of recurring growth.
If more bubbling or scrubbing action would be helpful for eradicating stubborn mold, consider following an application of vinegar to walls with a paste of baking soda and water. You can also mix one-half cup of Borax or sodium borate powder with one-half cup of white vinegar and one cup of water.
Vinegar Can Prevent Mold Regrowth
Vinegar is an effective cleaning solution for bathroom mold and mildew. Spray a wall with full-strength vinegar or a diluted mix of vinegar and water and scrub or wipe down at least once a week to discourage fungal growth. The presence of high levels of moisture, food sources, low air circulation and lighting levels in an area can make mold growth more likely.
Taking measures to manage excessively high humidity or moisture levels can go a long way. If mold has grown on bathroom walls, make sure that the room has a functional ventilation fan with an airflow rating in cubic feet per minute that corresponds to the size of the space. Natural sunlight and artificial light also discourage mold growth.
If mold continues to grow on surfaces, you may want to check for a more widespread infestation. Hidden mold may flourish behind walls and cause a problem to recur. Once a mold problem has been remediated, you can continue to spray on vinegar and wipe down walls once a week to discourage growth.
Mold-resistant primers and paints can also prove effective for discouraging mold. Start by applying a coat of pigmented shellac or an oil-based primer. Once this preliminary layer dries, apply one or more coats of latex paint that contains mildewcide.
Vinegar Also Kills Mold on Non-Porous Surfaces
Vinegar is also effective for removing mold from hard, non-porous surfaces. Although the leading surface disinfectant, household chlorine bleach, is effective for this application, it is harsh and toxic.
A solution that consists of a 5% to 6% concentration of acetic acid in water is much milder and may be less likely to irritate the skin, eyes or mucous membranes of the person who is attempting to clean up the mold. Vinegar may also be less likely to damage or discolor walls than strong alkaline bleach solutions.
When you apply a solution of bleach diluted in water to mold on hard, non-porous surfaces, this treatment should be sufficient to eliminate mold. In the case of tiled walls, bleach will not penetrate into porous grout between tiles but can still wear down sealant. Vinegar can be a better choice for walls that combine non-porous tiles and porous grout.
If you are cleaning a non-porous surface, it may not be necessary to wait as long as two hours before scrubbing or wiping down a moldy wall. Within five minutes of applying full-strength or diluted vinegar, it should become easier to remove mold from walls.
Vinegar Is Less Harsh Than Bleach
Bleach is caustic and can cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation, even when diluted. Vinegar is a mild solution of acetic acid in water that is less likely to cause irritation or wear down wall surfaces.
Vinegar has a pungent sour odor immediately after application. If you want to mask the smell of vinegar, consider adding a few drops of essential oil to a cleaning solution. Many people prefer to use citrus essential oils for this purpose.
You should still wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves, when working with vinegar. A mold-rated mask or respirator can also provide protection from fumes as well as spores, microbial volatile organic compounds and mycotoxins.
Keep in mind that any cleaning solution can cause a chemical reaction that discolors or causes the premature wear of wall finishes. For this reason, you may want to test full-strength or diluted vinegar cleaning solutions in a small area that is unlikely to draw notice. If vinegar kills the mold to which it is applied while preserving the appearance of the wall underneath, it should be effective for a full mold cleanup.
Should full-strength white vinegar also be too harsh for cleaning certain wall materials, consider a diluted mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water, a solution of one cup of Borax or baking soda dissolved in one gallon of water or a mixture of one part hydrogen peroxide to two parts water.
While Borax and baking soda are both alkaline, hydrogen peroxide is a weak acid in water. Vinegar is a more potent acid, but all of these cleaning solutions are less harsh than chlorine bleach. Avoid mixing vinegar and chlorine bleach, as these ingredients combine to produce toxic chlorine gas. If you decide to switch from bleach to vinegar or vinegar to bleach, it is important to thoroughly rinse the area beforehand.
Household Cleaning Solutions Are Affordable
Whether you prefer to use standard 5% strength distilled white vinegar, 6% cleaning vinegar, baking soda, Borax or hydrogen peroxide, all of these cleaning solutions are affordable and likely to be in your home already. These ingredients are also available for sale at most grocery and home improvement stores.
If mold is growing on a non-porous surface, you can use a surface disinfectant like bleach or vinegar. While the costs may be comparable, the effects of cleaning walls with these solutions may result in a need to repaint or refinish walls sooner rather than later.
Stubborn mold infestations may call for the use of heavy-duty fungicides or mildewcides. Make sure to use mold killing products that are for the intended application. If you are not sure about the extent of an infestation or whether the mold is toxigenic, consider contacting certified mold removal professionals to inspect or test mold and recommend the most effective approach to remediation.
When To Contact Mold Cleaning Experts
The most cost-effective method of getting rid of mold is the approach to cleaning that will kill growth and stop spores from spreading. Ineffectual treatments that allow mold growth to continue in treated or hidden locations can end up costing a lot more in the long run.
A good way to reduce or avoid mold remediation expenses is to fully repair water damage in a timely manner. If this damage has already occurred, the most important factor is the extent of an infestation and the type of mold that seems to be present.
Infestations that affect an area larger than 10 square feet may require limited or full containment and the cleaning and containment expertise of trained mold remediation professions. This is also the case with mold that seems to be the cause of allergenic or toxigenic effects on the occupants of a structure.
It is impossible to identify the species of mold based on appearance alone. Depending on the situation, mold remediation professionals may recommend testing to determine whether the mold is toxic. In other cases, mold testing may be recommended to ensure that removal is complete.
Porous materials that are infested with toxic mold may prove difficult or impossible to clean. In some cases, mold may start growing behind drywall or on insulation, in which case it may be necessary to tear out and replace these materials to solve a mold problem.
If you are not sure whether to clean moldy walls with vinegar or if your first cleaning attempt was not successful, it may be worthwhile to schedule a professional inspection. Experts can use the best cleaning solutions or fungicides for the type of mold growing on the walls of a residence or commercial building.
Mold on Walls FAQs
Vinegar outperforms bleach for killing mold on porous surfaces. Bleach is an effective surface disinfectant, but the chlorine in household bleach does not sink into surfaces. Bleach is a strong base that is caustic and noxious and has the potential to discolor or degrade the condition of some treated materials.
Vinegar can kill up to 80% of mold varieties, including Stachybotrys chartarum, or black mold. For greater effectiveness, consider mixing together a solution of vinegar, water and a powder-based antifungal or abrasive cleaner, such as Borax or baking soda, both of which are sold at grocery and home improvement stores.
Vinegar is effective for killing most mold that grows on drywall. Drywall is porous, which limits the effectiveness of surface disinfectants, such as chlorine bleach. One or more applications of vinegar kills most mold. Mold that is growing behind walls or in insulation requires tearing out and replacing these materials.
A fungicide is the fastest way to kill mold. These chemicals are the most heavy-duty solutions, and may not be readily available. If you choose to use a dedicated formula to get rid of mold, look for a product rated by the Environmental Protection Agency for the intended application.
Distilled white vinegar in a 5% standard or 6% cleaning concentration is one of the best household products for removing mold. Other useful natural ingredients include sodium borate, which is sold as Borax, and sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. Bleach can remove mold that is growing on hard, non-porous surfaces.
Hiring a professional mold inspector will give you peace of mind. Being in a position where you are uncertain as to the toxicity of mold in your residence can be extremely stressful.
At moldremediation.io, we pride ourselves on being quick, thorough and effective in how we communicate the mold remediation tests that we perform for our homeowner clients.